If you missed the previous excerpts for Women of Foxwick, you can click here for "Lady Bard," here for "Dragon Seer," and here for "Lady Death."
Bodies pressed and shifted around Amelia. Sweat’s sour scent permeated the air, and she wrinkled her nose. While she peered over the crowd to the raised stage, she yanked her limp hair into a bun. She didn’t see any sign of King Brum yet, but she did spy her twin sister Adetta, weaving through the throng of people.
“Where have you been, Det?” Amelia fanned herself.
“Checking out this year’s possible competition. I recognized a few from previous years.” Det bounced on her toes. A sword clanked behind her with each move.
“I don’t know why they’d come back.” Amelia’s gaze narrowed. “Whose sword did you steal this time?”
“Kar—” Det coughed. “Um, the blacksmith’s, but he gave it to me.”
Amelia lifted an eyebrow.
A trumpet blared, and the people drifted into silence.
King Brum stepped upon the stage. His golden crown gleamed in the late morning light.
“Citizens of Foxwick and neighboring friends, I welcome you to the Mage Game. Four boxes, one pair of names from each kingdom, a master of swords and a master of magic, will have the opportunity to win 10,000 gold coins. Shall I pick our contestants?”
The crowd roared its approval.
“Promise you won’t be mad,” Det whispered into Amelia’s ear.
“What did you do this time?”
On stage, the king reached into a box and pulled out a slip of paper.
“Promise me first.”
Amelia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Det’s insistence grated on her nerves. Again.
“Our contestants from Wintermill are Swordsman Valance Sharp and Sorceress Belinda.” King Brum’s voice boomed over the crowd as a tall, muscular man walked on stage followed by a beautiful woman whose dark hair shimmered in the heat.
How does she get her hair like that?
Det bumped Amelia out of her thoughts.
“Mel, pay attention. Promise me.”
“Sure, sure. I promise.”
“I signedusup.” The words rushed in a lump that made Amelia blink.
“What?” Amelia turned toward her sister.
“Our second group from Valdale is . . .”
Det’s shoulders dropped. “I signed us up for the competition.”
“. . . Swordsman Tyre Goodmaker and Sorcerer Thay Goodmaker.”
“You what!” Amelia’s voice screeched, and several people shushed her. She ignored them. “Adetta, what have you done?”
“There’s no guarantee we’ll get in, but we could use the money.” Det gave her crooked smile and begging gaze.
Amelia looked away from her sister. A woman bumped her, but she barely felt it. What had Det gotten her into? She didn’t want to be sucked into her sister’s schemes again. It was bad enough Amelia still found burnt jelly to clean when Det decided to sell jams.
“Our contestants from Lochhollow are Sorcerer Nold Kant and Swordsman Eri Hilde.”
Two men joined the others on stage, but Amelia had a hard time focusing on them. Anger and fear boiled within her, and she trembled from the raging emotions. If the king called their names, they would have to withdraw. They couldn’t complete against these real sorcerers and swordsmen.
“Det, I’m an herb witch, and you don’t even know how to use a sword.”
“I do too, but come on. We need this.”
“People died last year in the competition. We can’t do this.” A shudder raced up Amelia’s spine.
“And now I call upon our contestants from our very own Foxwick . . . Swordswoman Adetta Crestwood and Sorceress Amelia Crestwood.”
Amelia heard the king’s voice, but she couldn’t respond. A thin line spread through the crowd. When her sister pushed her from behind, she stumbled forward. The stage drew closer. Why couldn’t she stop her forward momentum? Her mouth went dry, as if she’d swallowed cinnamon.
“We can’t do this, Det. We can’t.”
“It’ll be fun. Don’t be such a worrywart.”
Amelia clomped up the stairs and stood on the stage. So many people stared at them while the other contestants sneered. Her breath stuck in her throat.
“Here are our contestants.”
A smattering of applause rose from the crowd. Most people craned their heads to compare the competition. The gambling had already started as money changed hands.
“You have one hour to prepare. You must collect three items: a dragon’s scale, a phoenix feather, and a unicorn’s hair. After you collect an item, you’ll bring it to a designated checkpoint. The last person to arrive at each checkpoint will be eliminated from the competition. Magical transportation will be used between the tasks. Here are your maps. We meet when the sun is directly overhead.” The king motioned to the rising celestial orb before leaving them.
A servant gave them the maps.
Amelia’s hand shook when she accepted the scroll. Greymist Forest and the Blackden Barrens swirled before her eyes. Det grinned and Amelia’s heart sank further. Of course, her sister got her way yet again.
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I'll see everyone next Monday!